The Library d’Seave
Molly and Eric looked both ways before crossing the deserted street. Before them the Library d’Seave stood, stately and stoic, its greying stone pillars supporting its massive slab of a roof. They dashed up the steps, flung open the doors, and rushed inside nearly toppling a stack of dusty volumes. A small, old lady with huge watery eyes and golden-rimmed glasses peered around the tower of books. Molly and Eric paused, blinking in the musty dimness as the door shut with a soft swoosh behind them.
“Welcome to the Library d’Seave,” said the old lady, slowly and deliberately. “Can I help you?”
Molly grabbed Eric’s arm, skirting around the old woman’s stack. “No, um, we’ll be fine. C’mon Eric.”
“If you need anything, I can help.”
Eric managed a short, “Thanks,” as the two kids quickly backed away. They darted down a dingy isle of books and rounded a corner, trying to distance themselves from the old woman.
“This place gives me the creeps,” Eric whispered to Molly.
“Yeah, let’s find that story as quickly as possible. What was it called?”
Eric pulled a crumpled slip of paper out of his jean pocket. “Mrs. Readings said it was called “The Purloined Letter” by some guy named ‘Poe’.”
“Let’s find it and get out of here. I need to get home soon. It’s getting dark outside.” Eric shoved the slip back in his pocket and looked up. Molly’s blonde braid was already bobbing away down another row of books.
“Hey! Wait up!” he called, trying to keep his voice down.
The silence pressed in as the duo wound here and there scanning shelves and stacks of books, new and old, with only the occasional squeak of their sneakers on the dark tile to keep them company. After a few minutes of frantic scanning, Eric broke the silence. “Shouldn’t we try to figure out how these books are organized? That might speed this process up a bit.”
“I was just thinking that,” sighed Molly, “but look—the books aren’t in order by author.” She ran her finger along one row of dusty books and began listing the authors’ names. “Connell, London, Conan, Lee, Goldman—these names are definitely not in alphabetical order.”
“Are they arranged alphabetically by title?”
“Only if The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn comes after Falling Up and before The Witches.”
Eric tried again. “How about the subject?”
Molly gave Eric a half-incredulous side glance. “Do you really think Frankenstein would be next to The Cat in the Hat and The Fellowship of the Ring?”
“Well then, how are they arranged? By color? By length? By height? This makes no sense. Maybe we should go back to that weird lady and ask.”
“No!” whispered Molly emphatically, “Mrs. Readings said we needed to do our own work.”
“I don’t think she was talking about finding our homework when she said that.”
“C’mon Molly. Please.”
“Let’s keep looking for a few more minutes. It has to be in here somewhere.”
Twelve minutes passed. Faintly, the town clock tolled the hour. Molly finally gave up. “Ok. Let’s find that creepy lady.”
“Which way?” Eric looked around, panic slowly rising in his chest.
“I thought you were. . .” Molly rubber her palms together. “This is not good. Not good at all. Let’s stop and think. How did we get here? That way right? Or was it down that row?”
“Looking for something?” Molly and Eric nearly jumped out of their sneakers. The tiny old lady appeared, like an unwelcome ghost, from around yet another stack of books.
Molly gulped and Eric took a deep breath. “We were, um, looking for this story.” He jammed his hand into his pocket and held out the crumpled sheet.
The woman adjusted her spectacles and held the paper close to her nose. “Ahhh. Poe. Yes, yes. That is a good one. Mrs. Reading sent you? She was a favorite visitor of mine a few years back.” On tip-toe, the woman reached and snagged the top book from a nearby shelf. “This is what you are looking for, yes?” She held the unassuming black book out to Molly.
“But this says The Book Thief. This can’t be the right.” The old woman raised her hand in silence.
“Do not judge by the outward appearance of the thing, for diamonds may be taken for pebbles if coated in mud.”
Molly took the book and flipped it open. To her astonishment, printed in bold letters along the top of the first page were the words, “The Purloined Letter by E. A. Poe”.
Then Eric stammered, “But how did. . . ? It says . . .” He trailed off as the old woman again raised her hand. “Long ago, I switched the covers of all the books in the library to introduce people to new literature they would never have discovered on their own. I always intended to switch them back, but . . . you know,” she waved her hand in the air. “It was too much fun. Now I am the only one who knows where the stories actually are.”
Eric and Molly didn’t know what to think. Clearly, the old woman was a loony. Molly spoke next, “Thanks, Ms. um,” Molly faltered.
“Veda. Just Veda.” The old woman finished for her. “Follow me, and I’ll get that book checked out for you.”
Soon enough, Molly and Eric were hurrying back down the steps of the Library d’Seave, heading home through the ever deepening dusk.
*Photo courtesy of http://aidsource.ning.com/page/resource-library